Some artists paint landscapes. Some favor people, buildings, or animals. Artist Santiago Garcia of Uruguay paints shoes — Converse All Star sneakers, to be exact. Santiago is known for his acrylic representations of the classic American footwear — depicted in various groupings, hanging from their laces against an off-white backdrop. The artist’s other specialty is equally specific. Garcia has a thing for zebras, which he often pictures hanging out in incongruous settings, like in a bathtub, or a large cardboard box.
Garcia’s paintings of both are featured at the latest exhibit at the Eisenhauer Gallery in Edgartown. The solo show will hang through August 4, and the artist will be on the Vineyard to meet and greet. It’s a unique show that is as fun as it is a bit mystifying.
Why Converse sneakers? The iconic American footwear was introduced in the 1920s as a basketball shoe, and it remained the sneaker of choice for basketball players until the 1970s. The look caught on with the public, however, and the distinctive sneaker has retained its popularity throughout the decades.
Today, All Stars can be found in low-top or high-top versions in a variety of colors. Although the original had canvas uppers and rubber toes and heels, modern versions also incorporate other material, like leather or suede, and more recently, come in platform styles. Whether worn with casual attire, a business suit, or a flowery dress, Converse All Stars add a bit of personality to the wearer — a bit hip, a bit rock and roll, a bit playful.
Garcia began his career studying with masters in the disciplines of engraving, painting, and ceramics in his home country of Uruguay. He has gone on to make a name for himself internationally for both his representational and abstract paintings. He still lives in Uruguay, and has shown his work all over the U.S., as well as Central and South America, and in Spain.
Elizabeth Eisenhauer had planned to host the artist for a solo show in 2020, but plans got derailed due to COVID. Now Garcia will be visiting the Vineyard for the first time to meet guests at the opening and, maybe, cast some light on his choice of subjects. Or, more likely, he’ll remain mum and leave it to the viewer’s interpretation. Community? Diversity? Tradition? The walk through life? However you see the paintings, there’s just something pleasingly familiar, colorful, and fun about the images.
Eisenhauer encourages people to wear their All Stars to the opening, where visitors can enjoy music by Mike Benjamin and the Keepers in the Square, a weekly tradition that has been a big part of summers in Edgartown for over a decade.
The show, titled “Converse with Your Converse,” will hang from Thursday, July 21, to Thursday, August 4. Music in the Square will be on Thursday, July 28, with Mike Benjamin and the Keepers.
Updated to correct the country where Garcia lives -Ed.